Green Infrastructure to Promote Health and Wellbeing in an Ageing Population (GHIA)

This project is funded as part of the Human Health & Wellbeing Goal of the Valuing Nature Programme.

Principal Investigator

  • Dr S Lindley, The University of Manchester, Environment, Education and Development

Co-Investigators

  • Professor J O'Neill - The University of Manchester, Social Sciences
  • Dr J C Ashton - The University of Manchester, Arts Languages and Cultures
  • Professor P James - University of Salford, Sch of Environment & Life Sciences
  • Professor P A Cook - University of Salford, Sch of Health Sciences
  • Professor C Phillipson - The University of Manchester, Social Sciences
  • Dr A A Gilchrist - The University of Manchester, Environment, Education and Development
  • Dr G Cavan - Manchester Metropolitan University, School of Science and the Environment
  • Professor DP French - The University of Manchester, Psychological Sciences
  • Dr K Tzoulas - Manchester Metropolitan University, School of Science and the Environment
  • Professor GAA Wossink - The University of Manchester, Social Sciences
  • Dr A Barker - The University of Manchester, Environment, Education and Development

Project Summary

Green and blue spaces (GI) can directly and indirectly influence human health and wellbeing. However, access to health and wellbeing benefits is not shared equally amongst the population, particularly in urban areas. Research shows that people aged 65 and over are most likely to suffer from poor health, yet this group may be the least likely to benefit from GI. Although good health and wellbeing in an ageing population might be promoted through access to GI, using GI may not always be beneficial particularly as older people can be more susceptible to environmental stressors. Understanding how GI is valued in the context of the health and wellbeing of older people is one such unknown. This value might include the monetary value of preventing ill-health but also broader interpretations, such as the historical, heritage or wildlife value that influences whether older people actively seek experiences in green and blue spaces.

The GHIA research project; 'Green Infrastructure and the Health and Wellbeing Influences on an Ageing Population' aims to better understand the benefits and values of urban GI for older people and how GI and specific 'greening projects' can be best used to support healthy ageing in urban areas. The proposed case-study area is Greater Manchester (GM). GM is the first northern city to adopt a devolutionary settlement including control of health and social care spending. The research team are partnering with organisations involved in improving the health and wellbeing of older people and the design and management of GI across GM, including GM's Red Rose Forest, Public Health Manchester, Manchester City Council and Manchester Arts and Galleries Partnership.

A core part of the research will look at how the research findings can be translated into policy and practice and the transferability of findings to other cities, potentially with similarly devolved powers. It will do this by involving older people as 'co-producers' of the research to better understand thoughts, experiences and values that are associated with green and blue spaces. This will have a particular arts focus, including storytelling, sensory engagement and offering new experiences for engaging with green and blue spaces. Different types of urban GI will be used, including green 'patches' within the city (e.g. urban parks), green and blue 'corridors' (e.g. canals and waterways) and green spaces within the wider urban fabric or 'matrix' (e.g. private gardens). This co-production of research findings will be linked to all the other areas of work undertaken in the project.

Other aspects of research will be conducted on the potential benefits and disbenefits of green spaces on ageing health and wellbeing and the value that this provides. This will include looking for relationships between health data and the occurrence of GI across space, 'before and after studies' exploring the influence that different greening projects have on the physical activity of older people, measuring how GI may affect older people's exposure to environmental hazards (such as air pollution and extreme temperature) and working with people with early-onset dementia to understand how they appreciate the urban landscape through different 'sensory' perceptions.

The findings from the other components of the research will then be used to explore the values applied to the GI benefits and how these can help guide policy and practice. This will include evaluating existing measures of valuing greenspace, including monetary valuation and then work with older people to understand broader interpretations of value, such as culture, heritage, history and the natural or 'biodiversity' value. These findings will be used to develop online mapping tools that demonstrate the needs, provision and value of GI for older people. The team will then work to explore how these findings relate to other locations and communicate findings to urban areas across the UK